“I’m really proud of this beautiful dish. I’m not sure what the mechoui man I met in the market in Marrakesh would make of it, but I like to think I’m respecting the way he cooks”
Jamie Oliver (Jamie Does)
If Jamie Oliver is unsure of how his version of Mechoui lamb with carrot and orange salad would go down in Morocco, goodness knows what they’d make of my extremely far removed from tradition version of Mechoui roast chicken wraps, served with harissa yoghurt dip and red onion salad.
Regular readers will know how much I enjoy Moroccan cuisine and how I generally try and stick to traditional methods and ingredients.
Moroccan food is one of the most sensual in the world. It appeals directly and unashamedly to the senses of smell, sight and taste in a way that no other cuisine in my eyes can match. I have yet to travel to Morocco; the closest I have got is Gibraltar, a greatly uninspiring place – too many tourists visiting en masse to shop for cut price drinks, tobacco and whatever else they could find – the one thing that did inspire though once I’d got off the beaten track was the Moroccan influence on the food. I came away with an even greater love of the Moroccan way of eating, the combination of spices and serving fruits with meat. For that reason alone I am glad to have made the trip.
In regard to the mechoui chicken though things took a rather non-traditional route. Mechoui is a North African lamb dish which is frequently prepared in Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. Each nation has its own specific take on mechoui, so several different dishes are collectively referred to as “mechoui.” Mechoui comes from an Arabic word which means “to roast on a fire,” and traditionally the (whole) lamb is either roasted on a spit or cooked in a pit.
Whole cooking a lamb is certainly out of the question so Jamie adapted the traditional method to make it suitable for home-cooking. I’m sure, should you wish the recipe could be adapted slightly and used for lamb steaks (or other meat of your choice) which could then cooked on a barbecue.
Whatever meat you decide on, don’t forget the mandatory requirement of fiery harissa and cooling yoghurt dips. Harissa paste is widely available at all the major supermarkets now and so getting hold of some shouldn’t be a problem. You could always have a go at making your own though. My favourite paste is one that my great friend Francesca sends me jars of from Israel.
The only reason I used chicken is because I cooked this as a birthday lunch for my mother, and she requested the chicken. Irritating really as she normally would pick lamb given the choice. Happen I should just have kept my mouth shut and served up a ‘surprise’ meal. Never mind though as the chicken was delightful.
Rather than rub the ground spices directly on the chicken I made a spice butter with them, which I then stuffed under the skin of the chicken and splodged over the top of the bird too. Jamie’s recipe calls for smen (a type of fermented butter) which is not exactly easy to get hold of in rural Staffordshire. I had a pot of double cream in the fridge that needed using up so I made the ‘mechoui butter’ from scratch, needless to say you could just use some store bought butter and beat in the spices. A short recipe for the ‘mechoui butter’ can be found at the end of this post, but, if you’d like to know more about how to make butter a post with detailed photographic instructions on how to make butter can be found here.
The chicken ends up incredibly moist, flavoursome and fragrant. The waft of spices and citrus backnotes permeating the house as this cooks is enough to not only whet your appetite but have you salivating at the mere thought of the first mouthful.
In a very lapse moment I forgot to order my carrots for the salad so substituted them for red onions. What a great move that proved to be. Sweet, wafer thin slices of onion in a heady bath of citrus juice, red wine vinegar and superb light but peppery Tunisian olive oil made the perfect accompaniment to the chicken.
Don’t just take my word for it, get cooking.